Saturday, August 7, 2010

RIP: WWII Heroes Fred Norman, Ralph Hess Jr.

America has lost two more heroes.

Most knew Fred Norman as KOCO-TV's weatherman for 15 years. Few knew that the British Columbia native became a U. S. citizen to fight in World War II. He joined the Army Air Corps and flew 35 missions as a B-17 navigator. During the Korean War, he flew search and rescue missions, among the most dangerous assignments. He later became a chief meteorologist for the Strategic Air Command. Fred was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

I met Ralph Hess Jr. long after the heroism he displayed as a Marine on Iwo Jima won him the Silver Star (left, above). As a member of the 5th Division, 28th Regiment, U. S. Marine Corps, Ralph was among those who endured one of World War II's most violent, bitter battles. I met him at Tealridge Retirement Center in Edmond, where he lived with his wife, Jeanne. In the short hallway of their apartment, there hangs a copy of the famous photograph of the Iwo Jima flag raising. Ralph saluted it every morning. "To remember those who didn't come back," he once told me. A few years back, I purchased a table lamp with a statue of that same scene as its base and gave it to Ralph as a present. Tears came to his eyes as he realized what it was.

The passing of Fred and Ralph are reminders, again, that our Greatest Generation is fading into history. ~ Mike McCarville

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